A faint sound was coming from the upper floor of the Aristocratic Hall; the source of the sound seemed far, yet near. It was almost as if fairies were singing amidst the clouds. The music sounded misty and wasn't clearly audible to any who listened to it, but it was this indistinctiveness of the sound which made it even more enchanting.
Such a graceful and subdued sound was hard to describe. However, all those who had received the invitation cards were left to rejoice after listening to it. So much so that irrespective of the outcome of the coming auction, they would still consider this a very fruitful trip — even if they didn't gain anything else.
There were others who didn't have the invitation card, but were still standing amongst the crowd. Such people could only feel an unbearable itch in their hearts. They hated themselves for not having an invitation card after witnessing the elegant ambience of this place, since it meant they couldn't stay. [I'll regret it a lot later on… I must get that invitation card even if it is very expensive… ]
The invitation card's price continued to increase as the sunlight became brighter. In fact, the speed of its rise was so frightening that it could be compared to whirlwinds. Fatty Tang had initially been quite distressed by the amount that had been spent on making these cards. However, he now stood gazing in admiration at the scene which had been choreographed by the Young Master Jun's persistence.
[Shouldn't he be called a business genius? I have been too shortsighted! ] Fatty Tang ridiculed himself.
Jun Mo Xie was sitting calmly through all this commotion. However, even he hadn't expected that his plan would create the sensation of such an effect. The only explanation for this could be that the Tian Xiang City had a lot of rich people. Moreover, they were crazy about invidious comparisons…
Sunshine illuminated the sky.
The Aristocratic Hall's on-sale invitations had been exhausted, and those who had been initially invited had arrived. In three-quarters of an hour, the main street was filled with first-rate carriages. All kinds of expensive carriages were parked next to each other. In fact, one could say that every vehicle in sight was expensive in its own right. When all was said and done, it was difficult to tell which carriage was the most luxurious. All the invitees had put forth their best harness to flaunt their 'aristocratic identities'. In fact, they had spared no expenses on the jeweler that hung from their carriages.
One could raise their eyes and expect to see a convergence of rich people!
It would be most appropriate to use Fatty as a metaphor to describe these portable mountains of gold; even if he only lost a piece of his bodily meat, then this single piece could still support an ordinary family for a lifetime.
Two cultured white-clothed youngsters were standing at the door along with two beautiful young women. The four of them were serving as a welcome committee. They would examine the guests' invitation cards, and then beckon them in immediately. Soon after, a white clad youngster would appear to receive them, and would cordially welcome and take them in.
Even though three influential families had printed their seals on the invitation cards, none of the familiar faces from these households had come out yet; these people were the only welcome the guests had received. However, even though each individual's invitation card was being inspected before they were allowed to enter, no one felt that they were being treated in a disrespectful manner. Instead, they felt quite proud and honored.
This was in accordance with logical reasoning. It would greatly degrade the reputation of these three families if any of their members were to personally come over to greet the guests. Hence, it would be considered a very inappropriate thing to do.
Almost every guest appeared to be calm and high spirited; irrespective of the fact whether this was their true demeanor, or just an effort to put on such an appearance. As they walked in, they unintentionally shot a glance at the crowd standing outside. This crowd comprised of people who hadn't received the invitations. The veins of the invited guests inevitably turned blue with anxiety as they quickly made their way through the crowd. They then accepted this arrangement in a quiet and aloof manner. The guests then strolled into the premises with elegance, and then disappeared into the lush flowers and trees.
All who had received the invitation card, showed up without exception — and many had been invited. They came in a continuous and endless stream, yet each one of them conducted themselves with dignity. Moreover, there were many people who ordinarily wouldn't accept such arrangements, but even these people were behaving modestly — simply to demonstrate their magnanimity.
However, shouldn't aristocrats always behave with nobility? This obviously didn't have anything to do with their present behavior… it just seemed as if they were trying to put up with the title of 'aristocracy' that had been assigned to them.
In the imperial palace, someone laughed heartily. There was only one person who could laugh like this inside the boundary of the Imperial Palace. It obviously wasn't one of the beautiful imperial concubines. In fact, even Mother Empress would adhere to the importance of mannerism, and would not laugh so heartily. Even the favorite prince or princess would adhere to etiquette and refrain from demonstrating such a lack in manners. The salaried servants naturally would never dare! Keeping this mind, the identity of the person who was laughing in this presumptuous manner was self-evident.
His Majesty, the Emperor of Tian Xiang's hand was clutching a white chess piece. He muttering to himself incoherently as he laughed loudly, "This, is actually quite an exquisite trick; unusual but truly ingenious. I don't know who came up with this exquisite plan. It is hard to imagine that there is person in my Tian Xiang who is surprisingly capable of producing clouds with one turn of the hand, and rain with another, heh heh pretty good, pretty good."
Sitting opposite him was a man of indiscernible age. He was dressed in white clothes that were as white as snow. He was tall and straight in stature and even though he was merely sitting, his shoulders and back were straight. His appearance alone could make people tremble with fear. Straight black hair flowed down from his head, and draped over his shoulders before scattering behind him. A beautiful tri-forked beard floated down to his chest. However, his face did not have a single wrinkle on it; in essence, his face was as fair and smooth as a lady's.
That upright figure contemplated carefully as he glanced at the chess board, "This entire move is truly exquisite. That person's wine must be quite wonderful. But even if it is a heavenly secret and extremely difficult to find… its value cannot be over 10,000 silver taels per bottle. However, this kind of method will make all the influential families compete with each other. In fact, this method will enable him to sell them at over 10,000 silver taels. He might even surpass that amount. It truly is a good plan! But Your Majesty had said, 'produce clouds with one turn of the hand and rain with another'. This person is still not that competent."
"Is that so?" the Emperor smiled in a profound manner and then continued, "In my opinion, however… he is."
"What does Your Majesty mean?" the white clad man intently looked at the chessboard. Even though he was sitting in front of such a great man, he did not seem to be behaving in a very deferential manner.
"It seems to me that this method of selling wine is ingenious, and has been done skillfully with much consideration. Moreover, it is important to note that it far surpasses an ordinary person's capability to calculate; it is truly amazing." His Majesty the Emperor slowly stroked his beard as he solemnly said, "This plan seems simple, and one would think almost anyone can succeed with it. However, if it is that easy, then why hasn't anyone?"
"I'd like to understand better," The man-in-white also started showing interest, and raised his eyebrows slightly. His eyes had an inquisitive look.
"It was important to understand people's feelings while formulating this plan. One must clearly understand human nature and its weak points, especially the psychology of the old and influential entities. It is important that one studies these things in detail, without missing out on even the most unimportant facts! Irrespective of whether the said individual is a nobleman, a commoner, a hoodlum, or a beggar, one must understand the week point of all. If only one is able to grasp this single point, one will at once grasp the failings of people's personality! Then, regardless of who it is… even a person with a position at the Imperial Court will bow down. However, this part is only the foundation, and the 'beginning part' of the plan," The Emperor's eyes were belied by a hint of anxiety, and a bit of admiration.
"This man certainly has a gift for understanding the human nature!" the Emperor laid down his first conclusion.
"Secondly, I figure that the people who have gone there today are unlikely to come out empty handed, and they're only auctioning wine inside! Therefore, each and every family which has gone in cannot return empty handed… even if the wine is of poor quality! Moreover, they're auctioning the wine at a very high price. Hence, no one will buy it for cheap. The price will be insignificant, and they will not calculate or care about the money they spend. What they will care about is their reputation!"
The corners of the Emperor's mouth rose to show a hint of ridicule, "Because too many of the people who did not receive the invitation cards are waiting outside. Wouldn't the crowd possibly await an opportunity to ridicule the so called "Aristocrats"? Anyone who has received the invitation letter and has gone to the auction will not want to lose out; they cannot afford to if they wish to save face. That man has figured out that he can openly, and without fear, fill his pockets with the money he fishes out from each and every family present here. Moreover, everyone will be excited about it; they will all be busy striving to be the first and fearing to be the last! All because they fear being belittled by others. Spending over 10,000 taels in front of the whole capital city will better their reputation. They can justify their status… as long as they are able to buy something!
"This man is a master who fully deserves amassing all that money. Quite unfortunate for the others though… " the Emperor made his second conclusion.
The white-clothed person sitting opposite to him listened in a calm manner. His face was so blank that there wasn't even a single ripple in response.
"Third, you have to take note of the names on that list. If you give it a careful look, it will be obvious that although this list has snared almost all the big families of the capital to go in, but there is still something rather interesting about it. This list is actually not complete!
"Every business will have its respective rivals. Naturally, the rich noble families involved in this business have their own rivals. Often, these rivals are well matched to keep the industry booming for a long period of time. This list also needs to be altered in order to maintain equilibrium. Otherwise the prices will drop and the merchant won't make profits, or the prices will rise too high and no one will show interest. However, this man's list, intentionally or otherwise, will completely break the equilibrium I have painstakingly built over many years! Moreover, they will not leave even the smallest of clues. Therefore, even though I want to blame someone for this, I do not know who!"
The eyes of the white clothed man looked puzzled after hearing this. It was evident that he hadn't understood what he had heard.
"He He…" His Majesty laughed, "I'll explain with an example; the Sun, the Mu, and the Zhao family are the three of the most well known entities in the capital's salt market. These three are like the legs of a tripod. Amongst these three, Zhao family is the most powerful; its strategies make it stronger than the other two families. Admittedly, the Sun, and the Mu family are somewhat weaker, but they frequently combine to withstand the influence of the Zhao family. The Sun and the Mu Family can therefore be used to maintain the equilibrium of power. This list includes the Zhao family, but not the other two old families — when in fact everyone knows that the other two families are also worth millions in capital and resources. Yet why haven't they received the invitation? However, no one can really blame the man behind the Aristocratic Hall, since he has already invited the most able representative of the salt industry — the Zhao family!
"This method is used in several industries to earn huge profits — only inviting the representatives of the families which have the most influence." The Emperor looked increasingly worried, "And to use such formidable means of propaganda to add fuel to the fire between two rival families… I'm afraid that a conflict will arise within a very short period of time! Those who received the invitation will act arrogantly towards the others, while those who hadn't… will be angry. They will feel that they are being pushed aside, and are being considered beneath the first-rate personalities. As a result… chaos will be initiated!
"All this reveals only one thing — this person can be considered a true master of the tactics!" the Emperor made his third conclusion.
Idiom; it means 'to possess great power and authority'. May sound off, but does fit-in in context if one considers that Jun Mo Xie liertally overturns the entire social structure of the capital.